Halford was linked to drinking gossip

SIR KENNETH OXFORD, former Chief Constable of Merseyside, believed his police authority should 'pay up and shut up', the authority's former chairwoman, Lady Margaret Simey, said yesterday.

Lady Simey, giving evidence at the industrial tribunal where Assistant Chief Constable Alison Halford claims sex discrimination, said relations with Sir Kenneth became so bad in the early 1980s that the authority sought legal advice over whether it could challenge his spending during the miners' strike.

She said that during the Toxteth riots, Sir Kenneth made it clear that she had no authority whatsoever to talk about them. 'I never knew whether it was because I was a woman or because I was chair,' Lady Simey, 86, chairman of the authority from 1981 to 1986, said.

Miss Halford, 52, who has complained of her treatment at the hands of Sir Kenneth, claims sex discrimination against the present chief constable, James Sharples; the Regional Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Philip Myers; the Home Secretary, and Northamptonshire police authority.

Lady Simey said Miss Halford had been appointed assistant chief constable because of her experience in training. She said of Sir Kenneth's attitude to Miss Halford's application: 'He was always very professional and didn't lead the interview. He left that to us. But in conversation afterwards he was more forthright and we were astonished he had nothing against Miss Halford whatsoever.'

Lady Simey said that in 1988 - after she retired from politics - she heard Miss Halford was applying for posts.

'My recollection is there was gossip that she was applying and that one of the reasons she wasn't interviewed was that she was said to drink too heavily. I never like gossip because it gathers moss as it goes on, and I took it on myself to ring her and say to her, 'I must warn you there is gossip about you drinking too heavily'.'

Lady Simey said she saw Miss Halford on social occasions 'and it never once occurred to me that she drank, let alone drank heavily'.

The tribunal continues today.